Everything you wanted to know about being a Trustee of the RSE Society but were afraid to ask

Volunteering as a Trustee

The RSE Society is organising its annual elections for the Board of Trustees and we are looking for volunteers! As a charity, the Society needs a few of its members to take on the formal responsibility for some aspects of running the Society. This primarily involves making sure that Society resources are most effectively used to support the Society’s charitable purpose of establishing a research environment that recognises the vital role of software in research and of people who create it.

If you ever wondered what it means to be a Trustee or if you are considering throwing your hat into the ring at our upcoming election, this blog post will answer some of your questions. We’ll be looking at some of the frequently asked questions about the Trustee role, the election process, responsibilities, and the rewards and challenges that come along with it. We want the Trustee team to represent our community and are looking for people at all levels of experience and seniority. You most definitely don’t need to already have leadership experience or experience in the role you want to take on as a Trustee.

During my two years as SocRSE trustee I learned so much, met lots of great people, and built lasting friendships as well as a professional network. Standing as a trustee was surely one of the best decisions I made in my career.

Marion Weinzierl

In June 2023, we had an online discussion where the current trustees answered some questions from the community about becoming a Trustee and the day-to-day responsibilities. This blog post is based on that discussion and features quotes from some of the past Trustees of the Society. The current trustees will also be hosting a Q&A session on Wednesday 26 July at 4pm (register here) or you can join the conversation in the #elections2023 channel on Slack.

Process and timeline

To give you some context, the election time line for this year is the following: The nominations are open between 14 July and 4 August 2023. To nominate yourself, you will need to provide names of two society members – don’t worry about this bit, if you don’t have any other society members around, please reach out to the RSE Trustee group on the RSE Slack or via email. The nomination form is available on the on the formal nomination page.

The voting then opens on 11 August and closes during our Annual General Meeting (AGM) at RSECon on 6 September 2023. We are expecting to recruit 5-7 new Trustees this year. If the number of nominations is 7 or fewer, the vote will be a simple yes/no to confirm each nominee. If there are more nominations, we will use single transferable vote competitive election. The term is 3 years and it is possible to stand once again after 3 years for a second term.

Roles & responsibilities

As a Trustee, you’ll play a key role in the functioning of the RSE Society. Trustees oversee various aspects of the Society: governance, finance, web and infrastructure, conference and events organization, communications, and our essential work in equality, diversity, inclusion and access. Each area typically has at least two trustees dedicated to it. This way, we ensure a diversity of perspectives, even distribution of responsibilities and work load. You can read more about the roles and what they entail on the Trustee Role Descriptions page and you can find details of the process and a link to the nomination form on the formal call page.

Also, we have a structured onboarding process to support everyone in becoming a trustee. Our team operates on a model of peer support, with a strong emphasis on learning and growing together. Newly elected trustees are often paired with more experienced trustees in “vice-roles” or in other working areas, following an “apprenticeship” model.

I became a trustee in 2019 with a couple of years experience as an RSE, while the Society was still completing its transition from the former RSE Association. Over the following two years, I got to work with some of the most experienced members of our community on policy topics for a research community and setting the direction of the Society into the future. This experience at an early point was invaluable to me as my career progressed and this becomes an ever larger part of my role, and that of central RSE teams in general. I’d definitely recommend standing as a trustee to anyone who has an interest in research culture and ensuring that we get the most out of our (still young) community.

James Graham

Rewards and challenges

Like any position of responsibility, being a Trustee can be both rewarding and challenging. From the Q&A conversation, our current Trustees found it rewarding to get experience in areas that they do not encounter in their normal day-to-day work, such as management, finance and accounting or community engagement. Overall, the supportive culture of our society and the opportunity to give back to the community are some of the highlights of this role.

Having benefited enormously from the welcoming and supportive RSE community, volunteering to become a trustee was a great way to give something back. I was fortunate enough to serve as the president and the experience was superb. I got to work with a fantastic team of driven and passionate people to help set some of the foundations for how the society operates. The experience of charity governance was a real eye opener and has provided me with a range of transferable skills in project and personnel management which have helped me greatly in later work.

Paul Richmond

The balance between core activities and new, innovative initiatives can be a challenge, but it’s also part of what makes the role so engaging. As volunteers, our Trustees juggle these responsibilities alongside their other commitments. This can sometimes pose a challenge, especially when trying to scale up activities or when core legal responsibilities need their attention (for example organising the elections!). Nonetheless, we have processes in place to delegate responsibilities and our working groups often include non-trustee community members to share the workload.

Time commitment

A common question we get is: “How much time will I need to dedicate as a Trustee?” The answer can vary based on the specific role and responsibilities. Under normal circumstances, all Trustees attend a 2-hour monthly trustee meeting, with monthly working group meetings.

For example, Martin spends about 10-20% of his time overall on Trustee activities. This includes a 1-hour per fortnight for each of the web and infrastructure working group, conference and events working group, and the RSE conference committee, in addition to the trustee meeting.

Evelina and Matt shares a similar experience, noting that during busy work periods, some Society activities may have to be prioritized. But don’t worry, most groups offer support and provisions for managing these responsibilities effectively.

I’m really proud to have been a founding trustee and served for three years. With a wonderful bunch of trustees, I created events and resources that the community needed and loved seeing the membership grow. It can be hard work but it’s very rewarding and you’ll not regret the experience.

Claire Wyatt


We hope this post has given you a better understanding of what being a Trustee of the RSE Society entails. This rewarding role offers an opportunity to play a significant part in shaping our community’s direction, while also growing your personal and professional skills. If you’re excited about the possibility of becoming a Trustee and are ready to contribute to the ongoing growth and development of the RSE Society, we encourage you to submit your nomination.

If you have been persuaded to volunteer as a Trustee, you can find details of the process and a link to the nomination form on the formal call page. If you have any questions, please ask on the #elections2023 channel on Slack, join the Q&A session or email the current Trustees at [email protected].

About the author: Evelina Gabasova